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HUNGER                                            203
* Quite literally. Food means that and nothing else. It doesn't
mean meat, nor fish nor eggs nor potatoes ; it doesn't mean corn,
nor millet, nor even bajri, which bears many resemblances to rice.
It means rice first, last, and all the time, morning, noon, and night.
If you gave them anything else most of them wouldn't know what
to do with it. And even if they managed to eat it, it wouldn't
agree with them. If you feed a rice-eater on anything but
rice he develops a host of stomach troubles, from dysentery
downwards/
This young Hindu proved an instructive travelling companion.
He was himself employed in a branch of the Food Administration,
and he told me one thing about the shortage which seemed so
fantastic that at first I thought he must be romancing. Subse-
quent inquiry proved that he was telling the truth, and so here is
the gist of his story.
It concerns the population problem. In the last twelve years
the population of India has increased by sixty million. (If the
average Englishman realized that this is almost equivalent to the
entire white population of the British Empire, he might sit up and
take notice. He might see several warning shadows looming on
the horizon. So. for that matter, might the average citizen of the
United States!)
But the province of Bengal has increased at an even greater
rate than the rest of India. Why ? For the reason described above
as 'fantastic.' Simply because the proportion of Muslims and Hindus
in the province is so nearly balanced that all devout parents are
engaged in a crazy race to produce children at any cost.
The children will have no food ? Xo clothes ? Xo Jobs ? No
possible prospects ? It is of no consequence. All that matters is
that another baby should be on the way at the earliest possible
opportunity. Only thus can Allah be praised and Vishnu
propitiated.                ^
And so, you see, statistics in India are not quite ars simple as
statistics in some other parts of the world.    There is witchcraft
working behind the figures, and when you examine them closely
w-they dance and flicker in strange variations.
I began to realize that my trip to Calcutta might prove instruc-
tive in more wavs than one.